Comment: Human Rights Day

Today is Human Rights Day.

We don’t have to look far for human rights violations.

Ask anyone with a relative living with dementia, or intellectual disability or indeed people living with mental health issues.

We violate the human rights of the most vulnerable in our society on a daily basis.

We have no right to the moral high ground.

The majority of international human rights treaties that Ireland has ratified have not been incorporated into law.

A dualist legal system operates in the State such that ratification of international treaties does not have automatic effect at domestic level.

Its seems that ‘what the neighbours think is more important than what we actually do.” In Ireland we violate the rights of the most vulnerable in our society, not occasionally but frequently and regularly, in some cases daily.



We need to call out these violations and we need to tackle ageism. Ageism is a serious issue. It is so ingrained in our psyche that most of us routinely accept that it is ok to treat older patients differently to younger patients. That in itself is a violation of our right to equal treatment irrespective of age. Ageism is simply an excuse to treat older adults as less.

Reading the newspaper’s you would think that older adults are a drain on the Irish healthcare system, dragging it under. The fact of the matter is that less than 5% of adults over 65 are frail or living in full-time care. Furthermore it costs more to treat younger people than older people – for a number of reasons, but arguably some of these reasons are a consequence of ‘ageism’ where younger people have their ailments investigated and treated, while older adults are frequently told, often for the same ailment, that it is their age and there is no need to investigate or indeed to treat.

The reality is that health spending on older adults decreased from 1.7 billion per annum in 2008 to 1.4 billion in 2013. Sounds like a lot of money. But let me put that in perspective.

We invest 11 billion annually in the health of our children. Our children are important but so are our parents, so are we and so are our children who will one day be old. Lets demand change, lets not confine our parents, ourselves or our children to the scrap heap. We all deserve to be treated equally and with dignity and respect.

Time to honour the human rights of all citizens irrespective of age.
Time to put an end ageism in Ireland.